Home / Industry / Agriculture /  Wheat output may decline by up to 5% due to untimely rains, says govt

New Delhi: The recent spate of unseasonal rainfall has damaged standing crops in 14 states and may lead to 4-5% loss in the wheat harvest, farm minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Tuesday.

Unseasonal rain at the end of February and March damaged crops in 11 million hectares (ha) spread over Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab, according to a 26 March ministry estimate.

An estimated 6 million ha of wheat crop, nearly one-fifth of the sown area, has been damaged. There has been more showers and hailstorms since the data was released, even as major wheat-growing states began harvesting the crop.

Further, more thunderstorms accompanied with hail is expected in some areas of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Vidarbha region in Maharashtra, West Bengal and north-eastern states, according to an India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast for Wednesday.

“We are in the process of assessing the damage and central teams will leave for Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan in the next few days," Singh said on the sidelines of a national conference on kharif crops on Tuesday.

“We have asked state governments to use money from State Disaster Response Funds (SDRF) to provide immediate compensation to farmers," the minister said. “If these funds fall short, states can ask for more funds from the centre."

States have about 7,000 crore in these funds, which can be distributed for immediate relief, according to agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain.

States can notify disasters in local contexts and can use 10% of the SDRF funds towards this, a farm ministry release clarified.

The government may raise the compensation to farmers affected by natural calamities, Singh further said.

Presently farmers are entitled to 4,500/ha for rain-fed crops and 9,000/ha for irrigated crops towards assistance in areas recording more than 50% crop damage.

According to a farm ministry estimate released in February before the unseasonal rain set in, India’s wheat production was estimated at 95.76 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15, marginally lower than the 95.85 mt in 2013-14.

Meanwhile, as freak rain has affected the quality of wheat harvest, the centre is planning to relax procurement norms.

“Quality norms for the procurement of wheat, which has lost its shine, have already been relaxed in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. After testing the samples in Madhya Pradesh, shrinked and broken grains have been allowed up to 10%," the food ministry said on Tuesday, adding, a similar relaxation will be done for Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

However, grains with more than 14% moisture content cannot be stored or procured, it said.

A deficit monsoon last year and low farm gate prices for key crops such as rice, wheat and cotton has put rural incomes under severe stress in the ongoing crop season.

Agricultural growth rate was estimated at 1.1% in 2014-15 compared with 3.7% in the previous year, and overall foodgrain production was estimated to dip by 3% on account of the deficit monsoon in 2014-15, but before the untimely rain set in.

Last month, the National Democratic Alliance government had set up a national task force to “reinvigorate agriculture in all its aspects" under the aegis of the NITI Aayog, a newly established think tank that has replaced the Planning Commission.

Nikita Mehta contributed to the story.

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